The Predictive Creative Mind: A First Look at Spontaneous Predictions and Evaluations during Idea Generation

Jacopo Valtulina, Alwin de Rooij

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Idea generation, the process of creating and developing candidate solutions that when implemented can solve ill-defined and complex problems, plays a pivotal role in creativity and innovation. The algorithms that underlie classical evolutionary, cognitive, and process models of idea generation, however, appear too inefficient to effectively help solve the ill-defined and complex problems for which one would engage in idea generation. To address this, these classical models have recently been redesigned as forward models, drawing heavily on the “predictive mind” literature. These pose that more efficiency can be achieved by making predictions based on heuristics, previous experiences, and domain knowledge about what material to use to generate ideas with, and evaluate these subsequently generated ideas based on whether they indeed match the initial prediction. When a discrepancy occurs between prediction and evaluation, new predictions are made, and thus shaping what actions, and how these actions, are undertaken. Although promising, forward models of idea generation remain theoretical and thus no empirical evidence exists about whether such predictions and evaluations indeed form part of the idea generation process. To take a first empirical look at this, a mixed methods study was conducted by analyzing people’s self-reports for the reasons of the actions that they take during an idea generation task. The results showed that predictions and evaluations are pervasive in the idea generation process. Specifically, switching between concept selection and conceptual combination and idea generation, as well as repeating idea generation based on earlier selected conceptual combination, and possibly (but to a lesser extent) concept selection and the repetition thereof, are likely to be driven by predictions and evaluations. Moreover, the frequencies of the predictions and evaluations that drive these actions influenced the amount of ideas generated, amount of concepts used, and within-concept fluency (the ratio of the amount of ideas generated per concept used). Therefore, the contribution of this paper is the first empirical evidence that indicates that the idea generation process is driven by both predictions and evaluations.
Original languageEnglish
Article number2465
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Publication statusPublished - 18 Oct 2019


  • Idea generation
  • Evaluation


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